Sky to Block Porn and More By Default

UK broadband provider Sky says that it will block adult content by default going forward, unless users opt out.

The Sky Broadband Shield protects against malware-infected or phishing sites and includes the Watershed feature, which gives adjustable settings with age-rating options (PG, 13, 18, custom or none) for different times of the day.

For Sky’s 5.3 million customers, there’s also no getting out of dealing with it: Sky will prompt those who have not made a settings choice to actively do so whenever they surf to a site with content inappropriate for those over the age of 13—until they either opt in or opt out.

“What we’re doing now is simply making sure that the automatic position of Sky Broadband Shield is the safest one for all—that’s ‘on’, unless customers choose otherwise,” said Lyssa McGowan, brand director for communications products at Sky, in a blog. She added, “We can ensure that they’re protected from phishing, malware and sites unsuitable for young children.”

The move dovetails with Prime Minister David Cameron’s push to ISPs to enable content filtering by default. Now, all of the UK's ‘Big Four’ ISPs (BT, Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk) offer such parental and anti-malware controls. It’s a move that’s not without controversy, though the security aspects are a step in the right direction, some say.

“With multiple devices now connecting to corporate networks, without a comprehensive strategy and the correct technology in place, mobile phones can potentially expose companies to increased costs, security risks and operational issues,” noted Russell Horton, COO at Elitetele.com, in a comment to media.

However, the move to implement filtering-by-default by others has had unintended consequences that should be taken as a tale of caution, Horton noted.

“[In Vodafone’s case], there are issues with the service such as legitimate websites being blocked (users report not being able to access The National Lottery and sporting websites) as well as the block returning periodically—issues which Vodafone should be able to control,” he said.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group (ORG), echoed the concern.

"Censorship should never be turned on by default," he said, speaking to the BBC. “ORG's Blocked project has shown that filters block all kinds of websites, including some that provide useful advice to children and young people. Customers need to understand the implications of filters before deciding whether or not they want them."

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